Mom of Fame – Expecting through Reciprocal IVF

Ana is a wonderful human being. I (Lisa) was great friends with her in high school and Facebook has kept us connected ever since. I was thrilled when I got to meet her (then) girlfriend when I took their engagement photos. These two bring light and love and we are so excited for them to be bringing a little one into this world.

We reached out to Ana to see if she wanted to tell her story about getting pregnant. It was a bit of a long road for them and their story is worth reading.

Pregnancy happens in various ways and we were excited to learn a little bit more about reciprocal IVF. They both deserve the title of Mom of Fame just for going through what they have so far.

Can’t wait to hear when the little one arrives!

Tell us about your family.

My wife (Kim) and I started dating 9 years ago (Feb 2010) when we met at a bar one night in Kalamazoo where we were both living at the time. I was immediately drawn to her humor and beautiful brain. In June of 2014 we got married in front of Niagara Falls (New York side) because same-sex marriage wasn’t legal in Michigan yet. A year later (June 2015) when it was made legal across the country we were thrilled! Kim is an actuary (mathlete) and I am currently in grad school part time at MSU working on my MSW. We have two little dogs, who are in their retirement and getting crabbier and more toothless by the day, but we love them. We live in my hometown (The Six!) which is crazy to me because I never saw myself moving back here. It has definitely changed for the better I think though. Just wish they would stop paving paradise to put up parking lots. 

Tell us about your journey getting pregnant. 

First I want to acknowledge that I know we are fortunate to have the options and access that we do. I know a lot of people are not able to seek out fertility specialists for many reasons and although it shouldn’t be, it is a privilege and it is one that I don’t take for granted.

Anyway…about 3 years ago we decided that we wanted to start trying to have a baby. Of course, being two women we are missing one essential component (ahem sperm) so we knew we had to find a donor. We chose a sperm bank that two of our friends had used out of Washington state and found an anonymous donor that seemed to match the criteria we were looking for.

I have known since I was a kid that I wanted to be pregnant and have babies someday. My wife knew she wanted kids but never felt like it was natural for her to carry a child. (Side note: I feel like a lot more women probably feel this way but may not talk about it). SO it was an easy decision that I would be the one to carry our children.

Because my cycle had always been regular and I had been tracking for about 4 months, I figured getting pregnant would be no problem. After two failed attempts doing at home insemination though, we decided to see a specialist. (At home insemination is also known as the turkey baster method although you do NOT use a turkey baster).

At this time my insurance did not cover a penny of seeing a fertility specialist but we decided to go anyway. He recommended IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) where they put the sperm directly into the uterus with a plastic catheter thing. We found out after the first few months of no pregnancy that I have an “ovulatory dysfunction” meaning that even though my cycle seems normal I was only ovulating every other month or so. So they put me on a bunch of drugs and monitored the cycle from beginning to end.

The first medicated IUI attempt WORKED!! I took a pregnancy test at home and it was positive. I was so excited! The due date was New Years Day! At the 2 week mark, I went to the doctor to take an official blood test and the BETA came back at only 32. This level is pretty low for day 14 after ovulation and the nurse did not sound hopeful. She said to prepare for the fact that the pregnancy might not be viable and to come back in a few days to see if the levels increased. I took another at home pregnancy test the next day and the line was much fainter than it had been. I started feeling disheartened but still had some hope. I went to the doctor again and the results had decreased to 12. They told me to expect a heavy period in the next week and that they were sorry.

I was devastated.

What’s worse is I felt like I had no right to be sad because it was only a “chemical pregnancy”. When I got my period about a week later it was the worst one I had ever experienced. Every cramp reminded me of the baby that might have been.

The next month I tried another medicated round of IUI. Negative. Then another. Negative. My wife encouraged me to take a break from trying. I was so down and the drugs they had me on were physically draining. All of my money was going toward these treatments. I felt like my body had failed me and I felt guilty for feeling as bad as I did because I knew other women who had gone through much worse.

We decided to take a break and come back to having kids when we were ready. I also realized I was depressed and started seeing a therapist who helped me IMMENSELY. She helped me realize that even though my loss was an early one that it was real to me and that it was ok to grieve and process it.

I still think about that little “poppy seed” on New Year’s but I also realize now that the fact that it didn’t stick was biology doing its job.

Fast forward to late 2016. Kim and I were talking about our friends who were doing reciprocal IVF. In other words, my friend was going to carry her wife’s biological child. We thought this was super cool and I asked my wife if she would want me to do that for her. I remember she looked at me and said “You would do that?” and I remember saying “I would love to do that”.

She had never expressed wanting biological children of her own because she didn’t think it was possible without having to carry and she thought it was a lot to ask of someone. I felt honored to think of the prospect of it though.  Kim is a few years older than I am so we decided that we should get started on this soon. We also discovered that Kim’s insurance covers fertility treatments which is not typical, especially in Michigan. (Side note…even if you have fertility coverage it can still be expensive). 

We started the process. Kim would start the process for egg retrieval and I would make sure my womb was hospitable. While Kim was on her treatments of tons of shots and meds, I had a procedure done where they put a camera into my uterus. It is as comfortable and fun as it sounds. They found a polyp and recommended surgery to have it removed since polyps can sometimes prevent implantation. In the same week, Kim had her egg retrieval and I had my polyp removal. Both were successful!

We had plenty of eggs from Kim and ended up getting quite a few fertilized and frozen successfully. We also had some genetically tested but this gets more complicated so if you are interested in genetic testing just google “PGS embryo testing”. We decided to hold off on doing the transfer (where they put a fertilized embryo in my uterus) until after we got back from our United Kingdom trip. We have heard that kids can put a damper on international travel for a while. When we got back we started the process for the transfer. Lots of checkups and blood draws and the worst part…daily butt shots. I’ll be honest though I eventually got used to the butt shots but it’s literally a pain in the ass.

The time of the first transfer came and two weeks afterward we found out that it didn’t work. Once again I was devastated. I kept thinking  “IVF is “supposed” to work”. Ya know what though? Sometimes it doesn’t! And it sucks!  My wife was bummed but more hopeful.

We decided to try again though right away. I went through another couple procedures and the second transfer WORKED! I had a *feeling* because I was getting a lot of weird pressure behind my belly button which I had never had before. When we found out we cried and were just like “holy sh*t…we’re having a baby”. When the BETA test came back super high from the doctor it started to feel more real too. This was not a chemical pregnancy. It was a “sticky embryo” as they say in the biz. (Fertility biz. Not show biz.)

Seeing the tiny heartbeat at our first ultrasound made it even more real and I fell in love with that little bean-shaped thing in my uterus.

Long story short (hah!)…I’m almost 6 months pregnant now. 🙂  We are waiting to be surprised on if it’s a boy or a girl but we both think it’s a girl. We would like two kids and hope to use my eggs in a couple of years for our second. 

What are you most excited about?

I am just excited to fulfill the “mom” title with my wife. I am so excited to know our kid and teach them everything we know and show them beautiful things, hear good music, eat good food and help them to become a strong, smart and kind person. I’m ready for the challenges and the joys. As ready as I’ll ever be I guess. 

What are you most scared about?

Right now my baby is safe and sound in my womb and it terrifies me that one day they will have to go out into the world and people might be mean to them. It puts me into mama bear mode. I’m also scared about someone giving my kid some deadly and preventable disease before they are old enough to be protected. #Vaccinate 

Does anything about this pregnancy make it unique? 

I’m carrying my wife’s baby. 🙂 I think that’s pretty unique. 

What has been the most overwhelming thing about this pregnancy? 

The amount of stuff you need even if you want to be kind of minimal. Also the amount of contradicting (and often unprovoked) advice you get from people. I will say I do appreciate veteran mothers immensely. Moms are warriors and women are so bad ass…but there is just a lot of info out there and it can get to be too much! Also the number of ways your baby can hurt themselves or suffocate. I was excited for a rock n’ play but noooo….

For anyone going through reciprocal IVF  or IVF in general – any advice?

Everyone’s reason for doing IVF is different but I would say…trust the process. For so long I was on this timeline of when I had to have a kid (influenced by other people I will admit) and timelines rarely work especially when it comes to fertility.

Also, make sure you have an outlet. Whether it’s your spouse/partner or a close friend or infertility group, do not go through the journey alone. Fertility treatments can be financially, physically and emotionally draining and it’s easy to get let it consume you.

Sometimes we feel so rushed and compare ourselves so much to where other people are that we forget that it’s ok to take a step back and reconnect with your spouse/partner and remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. I thought I was going to have two kids by the time I  was 27. I’ll be 34 when I have my first baby and I feel like this is the right time now.

Also, practicing mindfulness and gratitude helps you to remember what you really have control over. Spoiler: It’s not much!